by Melanie George, historical (2001)
Zebra, $5.99, ISBN 0-8217-7008-X
Devil May Care could have worked if it has taken time to flesh out its characters. It starts out by pairing two extreme polar opposites: a rake and a woman intending to join the nunnery. But it keeps these two characters on their polar opposites for so long that they soon become unfunny caricatures. Character development is stillborn.
Damien Sinclair is the rake in question, while the nitwit heroine is Eden Spencer. The Mother Superior asks Eden to go live in the outside world a little before she becomes a nun, and Eden takes this to mean that she must be intimate firsthand with the sins of the world. Strictly as an observer that is. (Not because Eden wants to be chaste, but judging from the way she behaves most of the time, I doubt she even has desires - in fact, I doubt she even has her pituitary gland functioning.) So she asks the Tormented, Actually Noble Rake that comes with an Evil Momma Baggage (hi Freud) to babysit her as she embarks on a grand tour of brothels, gambling dens, and all.
At this point, I am willing to go along. I enjoyed Amanda Quick's Surrender a lot, and that story has a similar premise, although the heroine of that book has a more credible reason for her actions. She wants an adventure. Eden wants... well, I'm not even sure she knows.
Damien is a stereotypical rake but he's okay. But Eden is the weakest link in this story. A woman who takes things literally and stares wide-eyed at things, who walks around the story seemingly unaffected by the sins and debaucheries she sees and have inflicted on her by a horny Damien - forgive the long, rambling sentence, but really, this woman isn't a character. She's a placeholder for readers longing for a fantasy that a woman can still be oblivious to her body and everything despite having the hero shown her where her clitoris is. Obviously if you object to me using the C word, you'll love this story. Innocence is so sweet, yes?
There's one fun character though: Reggie. He's wicked and gay. Since he's gay, he's also the heroine's best confidante. Even poor Reggie is not spared though: in the end he turns from a colorful fruitcake delight into a... well, bore. You know, Damien and Reggie is a slash delight waiting to happen, if only Eden would just fall into a cesspit on her wide-eyed staring of her surroundings and just drown. I would love to see what that Reggie/Damien story would be like. Much better, I'm sure, than this one-note story.
To sum off, Devil May Care has potential. It also, unfortunately, have sketchy characterization and an uninteresting relationship between the hero and the heroine (the latter more akin to babysitting with sex). Which goes to prove, really, that unfulfilled potential can be the most frustrating thing to follow.
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